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Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 13


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Delighted with their metropolitan, the clergy waited upon him in a body, and begged that he would allow himself to be installed in his cathedral, according to the custom of his predecessors; and Wolsey, after taking time to consider of it, consented, on condition that it should be done with as little splendour as possible. No sooner, however, was this news divulged, than the noblemen, gentlemen, and clergy of the county sent into York great quantities of provisions, and made preparations for a most magnificent feast. But this was suddenly prevented by a very unexpected event. The accounts of the cardinal's doings, his buildings, his hospitality, and his great popularity, were all carried to London, and greatly exaggerated to the king, with every art to excite his jealousy. Cromwell gave him information of this, and warned him earnestly to keep himself as quiet and as much out of public view as possible, or his untiring enemies would bring mischief out of it for him. It was too late. On the 4th of November, only three days before the grand installation was to come off, the Earl of Northumberland, accompanied by Sir William Walsh and a number of horsemen, arrived at Cawood. Wolsey was sitting at dinner, and he rose, expressing a wish that the earl had come a little earlier; for he had been brought up in his household, and he therefore jumped at the conclusion that he had been selected to bear him good tidings. But this selection had probably been made more by the will of Anne Boleyn than of the king, and for a very different object. The Earl was Anne's old lover, who, as the young Lord Percy, had been torn from her by the hand of Wolsey, though at the dictation of the king; and the proud beauty showed that she had not yet forgotten or forgiven the circumstance. Wolsey, believing in good news, went out to receive the earl with a cheerful countenance; and, observing his numerous retinue, lie said, "Ah! my lord, I perceive that you observe the precepts and instructions which I gave you, when you were abiding with me in your youth, to cherish your father's old servants." He then took the earl affectionately by the hand, and led him into a bedchamber. There he no doubt expected to hear some good tidings; but the earl was observed to be much affected, and, with much embarrassment and hesitation, he at length laid his hand on the old man's shoulder, and said, "My lord, I arrest you of high treason." Wolsey was struck dumb, and stood motionless as a statue. He then bowed to the order, and prepared for his journey. On Sunday the earl set out with his prisoner, and on the 9th of November, on the third day, they arrived at Sheffield Park, the residence of the Earl of Shrewsbury, steward of the king's household. The earl, Lady Shrewsbury, and their family, received the cardinal with much kindness and respect, and he remained with them a fortnight, awaiting the further orders of the Court. During this anxious time his constitution gave way; he was seized with dysentery. "Whilst in this suffering state, Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower, arrived, with four-and-twenty of his guards, to conduct him to London. The Earl of Shrewsbury, fearing the effect of this news on the cardinal in his weak condition, requested Cavendish to communicate it to him in the best manner that he could. Cavendish, therefore, told him he brought him good news: the king had sent Sir William Kingston to conduct him to his royal presence. "Kingston!" cried the cardinal; and clapping his hand on his thigh, gave a great sigh. The Earl of Shrewsbury entered, and told him that he had letters from his friends at Court, who assured him that the king expressed the greatest friendship for him, and was determined to restore him to favour. Then followed Kingston himself, who fell on his knees, and refusing to move from that posture till he had delivered the royal message, he assured the cardinal of the king's great goodness towards him, and that he had commanded him to obey him in all things. But the cardinal, who was too well acquainted with the real meaning of such things, replied, "Rise, sir; I know what is designed for me. I thank you, sir, for your good news, I am a diseased man, but I will prepare to ride with you tomorrow."

In a state of great exhaustion, Wolsey set out, and on the third evening reached Leicester Abbey, where the abbot, at the head of a procession of the monks, with lighted torches, received him. He was completely worn out, and being lifted from his mule, said, "I am come, my brethren, to lay my bones amongst you." The monks carried him to his bed, where he swooned repeatedly; and the second morning his servants, who had watched him with anxious affection, saw that he was dying. He called to his bedside Sir "William Kingston, and, amongst others, addressed to him these remarkable words: - "Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs. But this is the just reward that I muse receive for my diligent pains and study, not regarding my service to God, but only to my prince. Let me advise you to take care what you put in the king's head, for you can never put it out again. I have often kneeled before him, sometimes three hours together, to persuade him from his will and appetite, but could not prevail. He is a prince of most royal courage, and hath a princely heart; for, rather than miss or want any part of his will, he will endanger one half of his kingdom."

In what the dying cardinal said as to the impossibility of ever putting an idea out of Henry's head that you once put in, no doubt he alluded to his having suggested the idea of the divorce and the marriage of a French princess, which suggestion had thus fatally worked for himself. On the 29th of November, 1530, thus died Thomas, Lord Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most extraordinary characters that was ever raised up and again overthrown by the mere will of a king, and who unconsciously contributed to one of the most extensive revolutions of human mine and government which the world has known. No words can more perfectly present the two sides of his character than those of our great dramatist: -

"Queen Catherine. . . . . He was a man
Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
Himself with princes; one, that by suggestion
Tied all the kingdom: simony was fair play;
His own opinion was his law: i' the presence
He would say untruths; and be ever double,
Both in his words and meaning.
"Griffith. . . . . . .This cardinal,
Though from an humble stock, undoubtedly
Was fashioned to much honour. From his cradle
He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;
Exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading:
Lofty and sour to them that loved him not;
But to those men that sought him, sweet as summer.
And though he were unsatisfied in getting
(Which was a sin), yet in bestowing, madam,
He was most princely."

Cavendish, the faithful secretary of Wolsey, rode on from Leicester to London, to announce the decease of the cardinal to the king. He found him engaged in a match of archery in the park of Hampton Court, that magnificent pile raised and presented to him by that magnificent minister. When the sport was finished, and Cavendish had delivered his solemn message, Henry seemed considerably touched by it, but almost immediately began to inquire with great eagerness after a sum of 1,500, which some one had told him. Wolsey had secreted in some private place. Cavendish assured him that it had been put into the hands of a certain priest. Henry questioned him over and over again regarding this coveted sum, and said: - "Then, keep this gear secret between yourself and me: three may keep counsel, if two be away. If I thought my cap knew my mind, I would cast it into the fire and burn it. And if I hear any more of this, I shall know by whom it has been revealed."

In following the story of Wolsey to its close, we have a little overstepped the progress of affairs. As soon as the great man was out of the way, a ministry was formed of the leading persons of the Boleyn party. The Duke of Norfolk, Anne's uncle, was made president of the council, Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, lord marshal, and the Earl of Wiltshire, the father of Anne Boleyn, had a principal place. Sir Thomas More, unfortunately for him as it proved, was made lord chancellor instead of Wolsey, a promotion which he reluctantly accepted. Amongst the king's servants, Stephen Gardiner, who had been introduced and much employed by Wolsey, still remained high in the king's favour, and occupied the post of his secretary. Gardiner, a bigoted Catholic, and afterwards one of the most bloody persecutors of the reformers, now, however, in trying to promote the wishes of the king for the divorce, unconsciously promoted the Reformation.

The king, returning from the progress which he had made to Moore Park, and to Graf ton, remained one night at Waltham. Gardiner and Fox were lodged in the house of a Mr. Cressy, a gentleman of good family. After supper the conversation turned on the grand topic of the day - the king's divorce, and Gardiner and Fox detailed the difficulties that surrounded it, and the apparent impossibility of getting the Pope to move in it. A grave clergyman, the tutor of the family, of the name of Thomas Cranmer, after listening to the discourse, was asked by Fox and Gardiner what he thought of the matter. At first he declined to give his opinion on so high a matter, but being pressed, he said, he thought they were wrong altogether in the way they were seeking the divorce. That as the Pope evidently would not commit himself upon the subject, his opinion was that they should not waste any more time in fruitless solicitations at Rome, but submit this plain question to the most learned men and chief universities of Europe: "Do the laws of God permit a man to marry his brother's widow?" If, as he imagined, the answers were in the negative, the Pope would not dare to pronounce a sentence in opposition to the opinions of all these learned men and learned bodies.

On the return of the Court to Greenwich, Fox and Gardiner related this conversation to the king, who instantly swore that "the man had got the right sow by the ear," and ordered him instantly to be sent for to Court. Cranmer, on his arrival, maintained his opinion in a manner which wonderfully delighted Henry, and raised his hope of having at length hit on the true mode of solving the difficulty. He immediately retained Cranmer in his service, appointed him his chaplain, and placed him in the family of Anne's father, the Earl of Wiltshire, where he was to write a book in favour of the divorce, and to devote himself to the promotion of this great object. Cranmer, like almost every one who took the fancy of Henry, soon rose to great honour, became Archbishop of Canterbury, a great champion of the Reformation, and ended his life, like most others of the great courtiers of that monarch, by a violent death. Fatal were the honours conferred by Henry VIII.: they led rapidly upwards to the block or the fagot.

Cranmer went zealously into the work appointed for him, for it was a grand step towards that object which he had above all others secretly in his heart - the reformation of the Church; and no doubt his friends and coadjutors gave him all possible aid in his labours. The course which he was pursuing went not only to effect Henry's divorce, but to establish the fact that the laws of God were to be appealed to in the Bible, and not in the Pope; and this once determined in so public and notorious a case, would create a breach betwixt Rome and England which never would be filled up. He very soon, therefore, had his treatise ready, which was printed - for now that great engine, the press, was beginning its revolutionising operations - and was diligently circulated, both at home and abroad.

Agents were dispatched to obtain the required opinion from the different universities, both in England and on the Continent, well provided with that most persuasive of rhetoricians - money. At his own universities, however, Henry found no little opposition. The doctors and seniors were, out of hope of promotion, found ready to decide as the king wished; but the younger members were determined and uproarious in resistance. The subject was debated in Convocation at Oxford with great heat and confusion, and the assembly was obliged to be dissolved without coming to any conclusion. Henry was highly indignant at this proceeding, and addressed one of his bullying remonstrances to the university, calling on the heads of houses to bring their juniors into more order, or those young gentlemen, in attempting to play the masters, might find it not good to provoke hornets. "The wise men," as Anthony a Wood terms them, did their best, but they did not silence or bring over the younger men without immense labour. Dr. Fox, Dr. Bell, and Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, were down there, doing everything to overawe or win over the refractory; and, after incredible labour, they succeeded in procuring a formal declaration in favour of the divorce. In Cambridge the same result was obtained by the same coercion - by threats and promises; and the seal of the university was attached to a formal document, declaring the marriage of Henry and Catherine to be illegal.

On the Continent, where Henry's menaces had no weight, his purse was freely opened; and the universities of Bologna, Padua, and Ferrara, as well as many learned men, were prevailed on to take the view that Henry wished. In Germany his agents were far less successful. Both Protestants and Catholics in general condemned his proposed divorce; and Luther and Melanchthon said he had much better follow the example of the patriarchs, and take a second wife, than put away the first, without any crime on her part. This strange doctrine was some months afterwards recommended to the Pope by some one of his dignified clergy, as the best means of liberating both himself and the English king from the difficulty. From France and its fourteen universities Henry expected much more compliance, but he was there also greatly disappointed. Francis replied that he dared not excite the anger of Charles till he had paid him 400,000 crowns, the ransom of his sons, who were still detained as hostages in Spain. The hint was not lost; Henry advanced to Francis 400,000 crowns as a loan, though he already owed him 500,000, and sent him the lily of diamonds which Charles and Maximilian had formerly pawned to Henry for 50,000. By this profuse liberality Henry won over the French king, who, obtaining the freedom of his sons, exerted all his influence to procure from the faculty of theology in Paris a declaration favourable to his desires. A violent opposition, nevertheless, arose in the faculty, and the contest was carried on between the faculty and the Crown for several months, till Francis, growing impatient, had a spurious decree fabricated, which was published by Henry as genuine. Prom Orleans, Toulouse, and Bourges, and from the civilians of Angers, similar decisions were procured, but the theologians of the last city maintained the validity of the existing marriage. The answers from other universities were either not received or were suppressed.

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